No one can deny the massive impact that social network sites are having on the internet world. Of course there is always the bigger question of what percentage of the real world the internet world really represents, but that is a question for another day.
I have used different social network web sites for the past 2 years (except that at the start I didn’t even know what a social network web site was, I just knew that LinkedIn had huge performance issues) and have found that the ability to reconnect with old mates is one of my favourite features. The question becomes: What do you do once you have connected via the ethernet? Ping an occasional e-mail and catch up or actually meet in real-life again.
I have tried both approaches and found that the impact of actually meeting is far greater than any number of e-mails, instant messages or pings or nudges. These are the same issues that all people who meet through the internet face: Suddenly there is no where to hide, no back space key to remove ill conceived thoughts and, worst of all, no easy way to duck out of the conversation if things are going badly. The pressure of these situations is well known on the first date, but what surprised me was that it is still present when reconnecting.
The net result of this is the that meeting can rapidly head into one of two directions:
- You realise that you really need to see this person more and can’t believe that you ever fell out of touch
- You realise that the intervening years have taken you in markedly different directions and you really have nothing in common any more
Of course when #2 occurs it is best to retreat a quick retreat, but when #1 happens…..